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Final push to preserve Castner Range

Castner Range in Northeast El Paso (Credit: KFOX14)

Now that President Barack Obama only has a couple of months remaining in office, time may also be running out on the effort to turn Castner Range into a national monument.

El Paso U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) is about to make one final push to try and get the president to preserve the wilderness area that was once home to a U.S. Army artillery range. "We've never been closer to getting Castner Range named a national monument,” O’Rourke said, “protecting it forever, passing it down to the generations that follow us and opening it up to the rest of the country."

Despite his optimism about getting President Obama to proclaim the range a national monument, O'Rourke admitted he still hasn't received a clear signal from the White House about whether the president will preserve the 7,000 acre area since KFOX14 first asked him the question last spring. "The White House told me that they are going to make decisions on national monuments based on the popular support for those monuments and in El Paso, it is as close to unanimous as you can possibly get. They also want to make sure that they're creating national monuments that cannot be undone by a future administration,” O’Rourke said.

That could happen once Donald Trump is inaugurated president in January. "The powers of the presidency are such that nothing is off the table," O'Rourke said. "We want to make sure that if Castner Range is made a national monument through a presidential proclamation during this Obama administration, that it's done in such a way that, because of the popular support, because of the rigorous review that has taken place to ensure that we are within our rights to have this proclamation, that there are no grounds to change it, remove it or undo it somewhere down the road."

U.S. Rep. O'Rourke will hold a public meeting at the Transmountain campus of El Paso Community College this Saturday morning in an effort to show there's broad community support for designating Castner a national monument. He said, "This is a necessary step in the national monument proclamation process. There has to be a public meeting in the community that will be affected or benefited by a national monument. And so we've taken that upon ourselves to hold that hearing and have invited the administration at the very highest level."

While O’Rourke told KFOX14 he's not sure who the Obama administration will send to this public meeting, he hopes hundreds of El Pasoans will be there to show their support for Castner's national monument designation. He believes it could finally convince the president to make the call before he leaves office. "The best thing that we can do to make our case to the administration,” O’Rourke said, “is have each and every person from this community show up on (November) 19th, make their voices heard, let the administration know that this is the community's priority, that we will support the president's decision."

O'Rourke said the nation's leading conservation groups are behind Castner's preservation, including the Sierra Club and the Conservation Lands Foundation.


CASTNER RANGE PUBLIC MEETING

- Saturday, Nov. 19

- 10 a.m.

- EPCC Transmountain Campus Forum Theater

- 9570 Gateway North

- El Paso, Texas

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